A single late-night session was all it took to pass legislation that forced people to the polls earlier this year.

The Government has agreed to new federal whistleblower laws in order to secure the votes of Nick Xenophon Team senators and Independent senator Derryn Hinch for its Registered Organisations bill.

The bill is the least controversial of a set of reforms that were used as a double-dissolution trigger in May this year.

It passage means a new specialist regulator, the Registered Organisations Commission, will take over from the Fair Work Commission in overseeing registered unions and employer associations.

The bill largely places registered organisations under the same regulations as corporations, including:

  • increasing the obligations of registered organisations’ office-holders in regard to disclosing material personal interests, and relevant decision-making
  • strengthening the financial, disclosure and transparency requirements on financial management matters
  • increasing civil penalties and imposing criminal liability for serious breaches of officers’ statutory duties

The bill passed at around 2:15am, after amendments from crossbenchers Senator Hinch and Senator Xenophon were added to protect whistleblowers in both the public and private sectors and provide compensation.

“These amendments, if passed, will see Australia go from some of the worst whistleblower protection laws in the world to arguably the best,” Senator Xenophon said during the debate.

Employment Minister Michaelia Cash said it was not just “union busting”.

“What it is about though is about increasing transparency and accountability and stopping those unscrupulous individuals who would use members' hard-earned funds for their own self-interest,” she said.